Friday, March 15, 2013

Gift from the Sea: A Fantasy on the Beach

It's Friday, and I'd like to give you a nice gift: a fantasy on the beach.

Don't get too excited...It might not be your kind of fantasy on a Friday like today, but I'd like to argue that it might be an equally rewarding experience. :)

I picked up a book the other day titled, Gift from the Sea. It was a book on the experience the author had about mindfulness and self-awareness in relation to the beach. It was framed simply and poetically in just how the beach gave her with what she felt to be gifts. I flipped through the first chapter and was surprised at the honesty of her writing. Not so much in what she exposed of herself but the realization about what one could find (in a more philosophical context) at the beach.

Do you ever wonder why your thoughts wander to the beach? Why when you think of resting and relaxing, your mind finds escape in the cool sea-sprayed breeze of the ocean; imagining your toes burying itself in the sand, and your mostly bare skin soaking in the sun?

Say you decide to go on this quiet respite, away from the hectic life and the frustrations of living in a busy city. You're looking for a change of pace, a break, you tell yourself. Your body feels like a tightly coiled spring, rigid and taut; restlessness causing your body to fidget, your mind to jump from one itch to the next. So you pack a bag, deciding to go alone because the voice of another soul right now just might tip you over the edge and cause you to punch a hole in the wallor that person's faceand perhaps forever ruin a friendship, and now you'll have to deal with that stupid hole in the wall, and a sulking friend.

Sound familiar?

Okay, so you think of your ideal sanctuary, a place you would go to get away from it all, and you settle on the beach. The beach you have in mind is one you've been to before and all you can think is: perfect! This is what you need, someplace familiar. You arrive at the hotel, unpack, grab your iPad, your phone with that playlist you've been anxious to listen to, a book, and hell, maybe even a journal. You never know what you'll need, right? You find a quiet spot on the beach, on a weathered log with a good view of the endless, open water. It's chilly but that's okay because the day is early and the sun will heat up the heavy clouds above and you'll get that kiss of warmth, hoping that it will seep deep enough to touch that cold muscle still beating within the cave of your chest.

You pull out all the crap you brought with you: first the book, but after a chapter or two, you find yourself unable to focus on the story, so you turn on your iPad and play some random game you downloaded the night before. The game turns wearisome. With a long release of breath, you look up at the sky. Where is that damned sun, you ask. For some reason, you're anxious, so you flip open your journal, stare at the blank pages; playing with the pen as you think about what you want to write. You hope to start with something poignant, something meaningful, but nothing comes to mind. You shut your journal closed and look up at the water. You realize with a touch of frustration that even here, you're restless. But it feels worse. It's too quiet, you think. But you know that you just need to relax, give your mind and your body time to adjust.

A few more minutes pass, and a frown forms a tight notch between your brows; you apparently don't know how to relax. But it's not in you to give up, so you close your eyes and breathe in through your nose. And that's when it startsthe slow unwinding you've been hoping for all this time. You've got something here, you think. Stick with it. With your eyes still closed you suck in another deep breath. Above your head you hear the seagulls squawk, and you wonder why you hadn't heard them before. You sit quieter this time, listening more intently, curious to what else you might pick up. In the distance is the sound of waves crashing against rocks. You imagine a cliff-side and at it's base, the large swells pummel the hardened earth in an almost rhythmic fashion. Water sprays upwards to land white and foam-like atop the next wave to come.

Minutes pass and you just sit there counting the crashing of the waves, that oddly enough, is at pace with your steady breathing. Something in you has begun to slow, like the unraveling of wire, lengthening and loosening. Eyes still closed, you lean back, rest your hands on your lap, and stretch out your legs. That's when you notice the roughness of the sand beneath your bare feet. You slide your feet around, tickled by the rocks and seashells, and then sink your toes deep inside. You're surprised to find your toes finding warmth beneath the cold layers of sand above it. The warmth spreads over you as if the clouds have broken and the rays of the sun have finally come to give you the perfect beach day you'd hoped for.

There are no sounds of people, no sounds of cars, or music. The air is laced with refreshing tranquility and all you can think is, I'm here. I'm finally here. But you were wrong about the music: it's there, playing a lulling unpredictable tune, and it's not on the playlist you brought. It's the music of the beach itself. You realize then that your time on the beach was never a place to fill with things to do, like journaling, gaming, or even reading. Hell, the beach is just a beach until you look at itreally look at itlisten to its heartbeat, and breathe in the air it expels. Marvel in the vastness of the wide open sea that demands nothing less than fear and awe, and how it so innocently beckons you with its gentle waves spilling out onto the shore.

A smile curls your lips and you imagine a cold, crisp beer in your hand, and the smell of barbeque being fired up on a grill fills the air. You open yourself to the idea of people, and suddenly, laughter rings all around; accompanied by the sound of a volleyball being hit back and forth over a net. Now you're really unwinding. You imagine a doga large, golden labchasing after a Frisbee, his ears flapping as he bounds across the sandy shore.

It's brighter now. The rays of the sunshine filter harshly behind your closed lids, so you reach over to grab your sunglasses, and that's when you catch sight of something in the water. You focus hard on whatever it is. For a moment it glistens and you think it just might be a person, but you're not sure. You lean forward, elbows to knees as you stare hard at the surface, watching whatever it is shifting and swirling, sometimes disappearing beneath the waves. It's moving closer to the shore, slowly taking shape as it nears. You begin to see it more clearly...and suddenly your eyes widen, shock stills the breath barely passing through your lips.

It can't be, you think...



So...what did you imagine stepping out of the water? :)

Happy Friday, my friend.



  1. Anna post! Anna post! I love your blog.

    I love the beach too. I hang out at the lake near our house during the summer and am so mellow and happy when I'm there. There's something so restful about the serene glassy lake, the hot sun, as you so aptly said, that goes clear into the muscles, and the quiet earthy sounds like a lullaby to me.

    Now, as for that silvery thing coming out of the water, disturbing me, I want it to be something soothing, not menacing. It's a big fish swimming towards shore. Huge. The kind fishermen wish they could snag and claim as a trophy. I'd get up, managing to pull myself from my sleepy haze, and walk to the water's edge. If it was stuck along the sand, I'd want to steer it back towards the water and hope it swims back deep down below the surface where no fisherman's line can reach. I'd watch it swim away into the cold, dark depths until I couldn't see it anymore. What a tale to tell when I got home! But for now, the blanket and my book are calling me again.

    1. LOL, I love it, and I could picture every moment of it. Bravo! :)


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